It’s not something you hear about very often, but it is happening all around us. Often, the family members and caregivers that older people rely on are the offenders, and the consequences can be devastating, both physically and emotionally.

On June 15th, we celebrate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, though it’s hardly a celebration. Approximately 5 million Americans are the victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation every year. As the aging population surges in the coming years, this problem will only get worse, unless we collectively work on meaningful solutions.

Preventing elder abuse is something that LeadingAge and its members have been attuned to for many years. In the 1980s, we supported and promoted “Untie the Elderly,” a first of it’s kind campaign aimed at providing alternatives to tying patients down.

In recent years, we have been at the forefront of developing and supporting measures to prevent abuse and protect older people who have been abused. Examples include:

 

  • Partnering with the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly to distribute a staff training program for abuse prevention in nursing homes;

  • Participating in global discussions about elder abuse and human rights through our collaboration with the International Association for Homes and Services for the Ageing (IAHSA);

  • Working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to develop and distribute educational materials and tools for providers to recognize, prevent, and respond to financial abuse of older people in affordable housing;

  • Partnering with district attorneys, law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, social service agencies, and businesses that come in contact daily with seniors to help them recognize signs of physical and financial abuse; and

  • Supporting members who are opening abuse shelters using nursing homes as temporary refuges for physically, emotionally, and financially abused older people in the community.

 

We have a unique responsibility as nonprofit aging services organizations to help Americans -- and people around the world -- grow old safely and with dignity. 

Today, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, make a commitment to protect vulnerable people in our communities. Tell Congress to increase funding for elder justice programs. Take action now.

We must put an end to elder abuse in all its forms.